Bill Shorten defends decision to change ‘birthing parent’ back to ‘mother’ on healthcare form

Why government backflipped on its ‘birthing parent’ plan just moments after outraged new mum hit out at the term and kicked off social media storm

  • Bill Shorten defended decision to change ‘birthing parent’ to ‘mother’ on form 
  • Gold Coast mother claimed term was appalling, offensive and dehumanising 
  • Consent form is part of new hospital trial to upload new baby details to Medicare
  • Today Show hosts and social media users were divided on term ‘birthing parents’
  • Some Aussies said the term was inclusive to surrogates and same-sex couples 

Fears of an ‘ugly’ culture war prompted government to backflip on a proposal to use ‘birthing parent’ instead of ‘mother’ on a healthcare form, Bill Shorten has revealed.

The new consent forms were introduced at three hospitals across Australia as a way to upload new baby details to Medicare digitally. 

The document asked for the ‘birthing parent’s full name’ in one box and ‘birthing parent’s signature’ in another instead of ‘mother’.

Mr Shorten, who is the minister for NDIS and Government Services, reversed the terms last Thursday before revealing on Monday why he made the decision.

‘I’m sure my instinct to defuse ugly culture wars is right,’ he told Sydney Morning Herald.

‘There are many people who feel the word “mother” is special and worthy and there are others who feel their identity is not included – each has a legitimate point of view.

‘We just need to be better at not having to have one view at the expense of the other.’

Bill Shorten has defended a decision to change the term 'birthing parent' back to 'mother' on a healthcare form saying he wanted to avoid a culture war

Bill Shorten has defended a decision to change the term ‘birthing parent’ back to ‘mother’ on a healthcare form saying he wanted to avoid a culture war

The new consent forms were introduced in three hospitals across Australia as a way to upload new baby details to Medicare digitally

The new consent forms were introduced in three hospitals across Australia as a way to upload new baby details to Medicare digitally 

Mr Shorten said cancelling the word ‘mother’ did not help the ’cause of diversity and tolerance’.

He argued replacing the term with ‘birthing parent’ would stir confusion among migrant families who were not aware of gender neutral titles.

Services Australia said the new forms were rolled out in March and filled out by 1,100 parents since the launch.

Services Australia general manager Hank Jongen told the Daily Telegraph the new terms had been ‘tested before being trialled’.

Greens Leader Adam Bandt slammed Mr Shorten for reversing the decision saying the term ‘birthing parent’ was inclusive of LGBTQ+ people.

Mr Shorten’s decision to change the titles on the forms comes after a new mother from the Gold Coast slammed the forms as ‘offensive’ and ‘alienating’ towards women who wanted to be called mothers. 

Sall Grover said she was shocked by the new consent forms handed to her shortly after giving birth to her newborn baby.

Sall Grover, from the Gold Coast, said she was shocked by the new consent forms handed to her shortly after giving birth to her newborn baby

Sall Grover, from the Gold Coast, said she was shocked by the new consent forms handed to her shortly after giving birth to her newborn baby 

‘Attention women in Australia: On the form to put our newborn baby on our Medicare card, we are referred to as ‘birthing parent,’ Ms Grover wrote.

‘Enough is enough. This absolute bulls*** is exclusionary, alienating and derogatory towards every woman who wants to be and is called “mother”.

‘I know enough what is happening at the moment with women’s rights, and the erosion of our language and spaces, so I know where it’s coming from.’

During an interview with the Today Show last Thursday, she said the new consent forms were simply to please fringe activists and lobbyists.

‘The fact that it was on this government form saying “birthing parent”, shocked me,’ she said.

Sall Grover (pictured) told the Today Show hosts on Thursday she was shocked by the new consent form

Sall Grover (pictured) told the Today Show hosts on Thursday she was shocked by the new consent form

Today Show host Karl Stefanovic said he ‘couldn’t believe’ the form had been changed in the first place and described it as ‘bureaucracy gone crazy’. 

Poll

Do you think the word ‘mother’ should be replaced with ‘birthing parent’?

  • Yes 177 votes
  • No 1444 votes
  • Unsure 14 votes

Now share your opinion

‘Motherhood is about so much more than that, it is every other day from then, you have your first few days of excitement, being part of that and then you see ‘birthing parent’, are you reducing the role of me getting her here,’ Ms Grover replied. 

She called on the people offended by the term ‘mother’ to ‘get help’.

‘If the word “mother” bothers you so much, I mean motherhood is going to be quite a shock. Get help, go and deal with it if the word ‘mother’ bothers’, she said. 

Today Host Ally Langdon said as a mother herself, she found the term ‘birthing parent’ dehumanising.

‘I feel divided about it if I’m perfectly honest. As someone who does identify as a mother, I see that and it’s sort off-putting to see birthing parent,’ she said.    

‘It’s dehumanising to me.

‘But I understand when the surrogate and, you know, it’s not one bill fits all.’

An emphatic Karl Stefanovic (left) said he 'couldn't believe' the form had been changed in the first place

An emphatic Karl Stefanovic (left) said he ‘couldn’t believe’ the form had been changed in the first place

The Gold Coast mother posted a photo of the new consent form to Twitter on Tuesday and described it as 'exclusionary, alienating and derogatory'

The Gold Coast mother posted a photo of the new consent form to Twitter on Tuesday and described it as ‘exclusionary, alienating and derogatory’

The new mother re-appeared on the Today Show later on in the morning, after news broke the new forms had been dumped. 

‘Since that interview went to air, Bill Shorten who is a regular on the show, has been in contact to confirm these forms have been dumped,’ Stefanovic said.

‘Replaced with new ones that use the word “mother” not “birthing parent”.’

Ms Grover said it was ‘amazing news’. 

‘I was actually just talking to my own mum about it and I was saying it’s awesome, fantastic. No complaint,’ she told the hosts. 

‘It doesn’t take a genius to work out that it should have been “mother” all along.’

Ms Grover likened the title 'birthing parent' as something from the Handmaids Tale (pictured)

Ms Grover likened the title ‘birthing parent’ as something from the Handmaids Tale (pictured)

While the new mum received an outpouring of support from Aussies, some pointed out that the word ‘mother’ alienates other groups such as same-sex couples, adopted parents and surrogates. 

‘One form that uses inclusive language is not erasing/stealing your rights/whatever other nonsense you’re suggesting,’ one said.

‘Why is it ok to alienate other groups to keep you happy?

‘It removes ambiguity for situations with: lesbian couples, surrogate pregnancy, non-cis parents, adopted parents, and so many more situations.

‘By using “birthing parent”, it neatly and simply clarifies specifically which person they need the signature from.’

Twitter users pointed out that the form alienated groups like same-sex couples and surrogates

Twitter users pointed out that the form alienated groups like same-sex couples and surrogates

Some Twitter users pointed out it was just one form and that children weren't being forced to call their mothers 'birthing parents'

Some Twitter users pointed out it was just one form and that children weren’t being forced to call their mothers ‘birthing parents’

However others agreed that the words ‘birthing parent’ had no place on the form. 

‘Disgraceful. Becoming a mother was the most special time of my entire existence. It re-defined everything I thought I knew about myself,’ one wrote. 

‘Let us call ourselves MOTHERS! Cross it out and put “mother”.’

‘Anyone coming across this on forms should cross out the offending words & put MOTHER in block capitals,’ another agreed. 

‘If there is space, write on the form, saying that their description is offensive to women. This has come about because a tiny minority have banged on about being offensive.’

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